Your Guide to Cheshire SLANT 2018




SLANT 2018


A weekend of fun for

kids – from the Wild

Rumpus team


Animal magic for

culture vultures

at Chester


High culture meets

agriculture in a

converted barn


Everything is

illuminated at

Magical Woodland



Scenes from

the festival at

Jodrell Bank

More details,

page 3

Inside this

2018 guide

Interviews, news and


in unexpected



SLANT: Cheshire


Left: the chapterhouse at Chester

Cathedral transformed by a striking

installation from British artist Liz West

Far right: music at last year’s Bluedot



The date of the

earliest parts of

Chester Cathedral

89m at

of the

Lovell Telescope

Jodrell Bank

2018 A year of

northern lights

Cheshire is unique – an

exceptionally beautiful

British landscape; a county

of rich heritage; and a

creative hotbed. The Slant

festival offers a year-round

programme of arts and

culture, across a range of

Cheshire’s outstanding

and unusual settings.

Here’s the plan: you could

catch world-class live

music and cutting-edge

science stars in the shadow

of the Lovell Telescope.

You could experience opera

and classical performance

in the middle of a farmer’s

field. The whole family

could get together for a

Wild Rumpus fiesta with

outdoor pillow fights, circus

acts and midnight feasts.

In this special guide,

discover a place where

community spirit is a

creative force – from

Chester’s Storyhouse arts

hub, to Macclesfield’s

“repurposed” venues. It’s

a place where rural and

industrial traditions come

together, where inspirational

women are celebrated, and

where contemporary

art talents create work in

ancient settings – check out

the virtual reality dance

installation Salt, at the Lion

Salt Works, near Marston,

to see how workers toiled.

You can find the zoo

turned into a vast creative

playground – or woodland

transformed by lighting.

Because Cheshire’s Slant

festival covers all the angles.

Spring highlights


Touring Cheshire in June

Ada Lovelace was a spirited

Victorian socialite, the only

legitimate child of Lord Byron

(who died when she was

eight), and a tech pioneer

– she wrote the world’s first

complex algorithm for Charles

Babbage’s Analytical Engine,

in 1843. She died aged just 36,

but this performance piece, part

of the Shift series of sciencethemed

events, reclaims Ada’s

place in history and offers

inspiration for new generations.

It merges monologue, interactive

storytelling and digital design

– Ada’s LED-illuminated dress

is a star in its own right.


Storyhouse, Chester

May 5–July 8

Chester’s new arts hub,

Storyhouse, opened in 2017

but already feels like an

institution. Situated in the shell

of the city’s former 1930s Odeon

cinema, this bright, accessible,

multi-level venue is put to good

use with kids gathering in the

enchantingly designed library,

an eclectic mix of films in the

boutique cinema and a Levantine

restaurant. This spring sees the

new stage version of Stephen

Sondheim’s iconic musical A Little

Night Music being performed

on the main stage.


Macclesfield, various venues

June 15-24

Macclesfield’s biennial

celebration has a deep-rooted

history – it’s named for the

Feast of St Barnabas, and until

the 1980s, this was a holiday

period for the town’s factory

workers and their families. In

2010, the festival was revived

through local support. Things

kick off in June with 15 live acts

playing across 15 venues; there’s

a Saturday parade and works

from more than 20 visual and

digital artists, including Lumen

prizewinner Zarah Hussain’s

special commission, Invisible

Threads, at the Silk Museum.




July 6-August 16

The noise of popping corks,

picnics being unpacked and

happy audiences is the defining

sound of Chester’s summer

at this much-loved open air

theatre. This year, Shakespeare’s

Much Ado About Nothing and

The Tempest play alongside

Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation

of Swallows and Amazons.



Jodrell Bank Observatory

July 19-22

“TO EXPLORE the frontiers of

human advancement. . . To highlight

the fragility of planet Earth. . .” Bluedot

festival matches its stratospherical

ambition with a stellar 2018 bill (from

the Chemical Brothers to physicist

and Radio 4 science presenter Jim

Al-Khalili), and a spectacular

setting – the grounds of the deep

space observatory at Jodrell Bank

in Cheshire. These are overlooked

by the iconic Lovell Telescope,

responsible for the discoveries that

altered our understanding of the

universe, including our own planet

– the “blue dot” of the title.

For Professor Teresa Anderson,

director of the University of

Manchester’s Discovery Centre

at Jodrell Bank and co-curator of

the festival’s science programme,

the giant telescope is a focal point.

“It’s got this monolithic appeal,” she

says. “It’s like holding a festival at

Stonehenge – except the telescope is

even bigger than the stones.”

This year the event opens with

The Blue Planet in Concert, featuring

The Slant

festival creates a

lovely umbrella that

encompasses the

varied cultural

events taking place

throughout Cheshire.

It’s also galvanising

– presenting exciting

new opportunities

for artists. LIZ WEST

‘It’s like holding

a festival at


composer and conductor George

Fenton with the Hallé Orchestra.

Among other performers is DJ Gilles

Peterson, who embodies bluedot’s

experimental ethos.

There’s also the Flaming Lips,

while reformed ‘90s dream-poppers

Slowdive may encourage a little

shoegazing among all the stargazing.

Scissor Sister Ana Matronic will be

DJing and hosting The Future

Then: talks inspired by the 50th

anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s

2001: A Space Odyssey – crossover

curation that breaks down the

division between arts and sciences.

What the artists say...

With its close

proximity to the Peak

District, Macclesfield

straddles the

boundaries between

rural and urban

settings. For me, and

many other artists, this

interplay of landscape

constantly informs the


2 Slant 2018 For more details on all the listed events, go to

Slant 2018 3

SLANT: Cheshire


Left: the Bullzini Family will be

performing at Just So 2018



acres of


parkland at

Tatton Park

at Chester

Zoo, one of

125the UK’s largest

Creating a bit

of a rumpus

Just So

Just So festival, August 17-19,

Rode Hall and Gardens

hat if there was a

weekend that was all

W about families, with

great music, theatre, storytelling,

incredible baby experiences?

Also, something that harks back

to childhood, with pillow fights

and midnight feasts?”

Rowan Hoban is relating the

inspirations for Wild Rumpus,

the widely acclaimed Cheshirebased

family festival visionaries.

Both Hoban and co-director

Sarah Bird loved taking their

young families to arts and culture

events, but were less keen on

the way most places sidelined

children’s activities.

“We wanted to make the family

activities the main event,” says

Bird. “When you do stuff together,

it creates memories that become

part of the fabric of family life.”

Hoban and Bird planned their first

Wild Rumpus event nine years ago.

The enthusiastic response allowed

them to leave their jobs to become

full-time festival producers.

Now, in 2018, Wild Rumpus is a

year-round organisation with global

links. Its varied events include the

flagship Just So festival, in the

grounds of Georgian country house

Rode Hall (“a stunning location with

diverse spaces,” says Hoban).

Wild Rumpus events thrive in

unconventional settings. For the past

five years, the team’s HQ has been

a woodland called “Whirligig”, with

a horsebox for an office, and a

barnyard artists’ studio teeming

with fabulous scenery.

This year’s Just So festival includes

Tribal Tournament, the multi-arts

Flamingo Lounge, a Playground of

Illusions, circus workshops and

much more. Bird grins: “When you

take people out of their usual routine,

that’s when the magic happens.”

Summer highlights



Crewe, July 7

This free weekend of futuristic

fun is firmly pitched at all the

family, with an array of actionpacked

live performance,

gaming projects, and STEM

(that’s science, technology,

engineering and maths)

workshops to please everyone.

The most eye-catching event

of the weekend will almost

certainly be the Great SpareParts

Parade, a sort of cross between

Mad Max and Wacky Races, in

which a cornucopia of crackpot

contraptions chug their way

through the town of Crewe.


Chester Cathedral

June 27-July 14

Chester’s Mystery Plays are a

rare treat, with historic origins

(the first scripts were written by

14th-century monks at Chester’s

former abbey, and the shows

are now produced once every

five years). They’ve also earned

an international following. The

narrative is drawn from Bible

stories, the cast and crew are

gender-balanced, the music

score is original – and the full

stage set, constructed within

the medieval nave of Chester

Cathedral, makes this an even

more memorable experience.



Little Moreton Hall

Until October 2018

Sniff out this sensory exploration

of Tudor life – and its various

weird and wonderful smells, at

this atmospheric 16th-century

house and gardens. The Tudors

believed that air was one of

life’s “six non-natural things”

and should be controlled to

ensure good health. Families can

learn about how their bodies

interacted with the environment,

join in the “You Smell!” trail, and

get a whiff of herbs and spices

(and damp wool and sweat).


Tatton Park, until November 4

The neo-classical house set

within Tatton Park’s grand

estate was once a famously

lavish party venue. This

exhibition explores the 1897

ball thrown by former owner

Wilbraham Egerton and his wife

Alice, Duchess of Buckingham

and Chandos. Discover its finery,

hospitality and the hard work

that went on behind the scenes.

While you’re visiting, peruse

the Egerton family’s private

collection of music and art,

including 18th-century paintings

by Venetian artist Canaletto

– a future Tatton Park Slant

programme will include a

major Canaletto exhibition.



Wild Worlds at

Chester Zoo

Events from May 26-September 30

CHESTER ZOO is home to 21,000

animals, as well as ground-breaking

conservation and science projects.

This summer, the zoo’s Wild Worlds

programme will appeal to culture

vultures of all ages, too, with British

artists creating attractions inspired

by its environment and ethos.

As you arrive, murals by the artists

Badgers of Bohemia, famed for their

wildlife-themed prints (right), create

a festival feel, with works depicting a

variety of habitats. Once inside, look

out for Awe Kids: a vibrant

collaboration between multimedia

artist and image-maker Fabric Lenny,

beatboxer Jason Singh and sound

artist Steve Symons. They’ll be

sampling the sounds of plants to

create incredible music. Another

musical spin comes from “science

rapper” Jon Chase, who uses hip-hop

wordplay to make learning fun.

On some dates, visitors will meet

VIP Puppets’ enchanting creation,

I find the

exciting aspect of

contemporary Chester

is its courage to

explore the pluralism

of its histories and

the development

of new ideas,

artwork, architecture

and culture.


‘Wildlife murals

greet visitors’

Dolly the giraffe. Standing 4m tall,

she interacts with visitors during

her walkabouts. Children can “feed”

her, then take her “giraffe poo” to a

lab, where they’ll receive certificates

for their research.

Wild Worlds offers imaginative

places for a rest, too, such as the

Talking Chairs sculpture/sound

installations by artist Jane Revitt.

Lounge here to learn about the plants

grown for the zoo’s animals and the

reason that flamingos are pink.

This summer, Oakfield Manor, the

grade II-listed home of Chester Zoo

founder George Mottershead reopens

after a refurb, with a new garden

room and impressive dining facilities.

What the artists say...

My work

explores crossovers

between digital

coding and traditional

making. Cheshire

provides inspiring

experiences as well as

truly unique views,

and wide open spaces

such as Tatton Park.


4 Slant 2018 For more details on all the listed events, go to

Slant 2018 5

SLANT: Cheshire


Left: a recent performance

of ‘Die Fledermaus’

1974 ‘Operatic

The year that

Clonter held

its inaugural


500 Woodland

metres of path

lit up by 30,000

lumens in the Magic


Sweet Moo-sic

Clonter opera


Events from May 19 to December 15

eep in the Cheshire

countryside, arias ring out

Dfrom a converted cattle shed.

The voices carrying them belong not

to opera-fancying farmers but to

some of the most promising singers

around. And their audience is made

up of passionate music lovers who

come from far afield.

This is Clonter, where high

culture meets agriculture, and its

surprising location and imaginative

programming are a perfect match

for Slant. The story of this 400-seat

auditorium began in 1974, when dairy

farmer Jeffery Lockett and his wife,

Anita, hosted a charity concert in one

of their barns. Advised to come armed

with bug lotion, spectators sat on hay

bales. The event proved such a

resounding success that the Locketts’

“Operatic Picnics” became annual

events, and plans were laid to

convert the cattle shed into a theatre.

“We have a papier-mâché

cow’s head hidden high up in the

auditorium to remind us that we

have the cows to thank for the

theatre,” explains joint CEO Isabella

Lockett, Jeffery and Anita’s daughter,

who now co-runs the family

business with her sister Amanda.

An informal atmosphere still

reigns at Clonter, with visitors

encouraged to bring picnics,

which can be enjoyed all year

round indoors.

If the welcome stands out, so does

the quality entertainment – now

extending to jazz, gospel and folk.

“Our real raison d’être is to act as a

stepping stone for emerging singers,”

Lockett explains. Simon Keenlyside,

Mary Plazas and Amanda Roocroft

are among the now glitzy names who

came to Clonter as students. “It’s

always amazing to go to London and

see an 8ft poster in the Underground

of someone who performed here

a couple of decades ago.”

Autumn highlights




Warrington, various venues

Until September

The culmination of a year-long

programme of exhibitions,

events and installations around

Cheshire’s largest town, all

under the theme “The History

of the Future”. This year’s

highlights include the

environmental inspirations

of festival Open winner Tracy

Hill’s Haecceity, Juan Covelli

and Neale Willis’s joint exhibition

How to Dust the Surface, and

a solo show by sculptress

Hannah Leighton Boyce.


King Charles Tower Gardens,

Chester, until October 27

Artist David Cotterrell’s hypnotic

public installation projects

light and animations on to the

canal surface. The work is the

artist’s attempt to “represent

the magnificence of these aweinspiring

natural phenomena”

and his “whirlpool” images

create the illusion of flowing

and shifting currents while the

historic site reflects the city’s

evolving relationship with its

waterways. This magical work is

viewable after dusk.


Quarry Bank, Styal

Until October

While 1918’s Representation

of the People Act finally gave

some women the right to vote,

its terms of status/age/finances

still excluded the majority at the

time. This series of installations

is set around Quarry Bank’s

beautifully preserved heritage

site (including a former textile

mill of the Industrial Revolution),

and gives resonant voice

to several local women who

weren’t eligible to vote

and might otherwise have

been forgotten by history.


Chester Zoo, selected dates from

November 23 to December 23

Chester Zoo’s popular and

magical festive night-time

trail returns. At twilight, the

zoo is transformed into a

world full of illumination and

spellbinding performances.

Follow the route around the

zoo, carrying lanterns, to

discover an enchanting world

of life-size animal lanterns

and special festive effects.

The perfect, heart-warming

family event for Christmas.

For more details on all

the listed events, go to



If you go down

to the woods


Blakemere Village

October 20-November 2

MODERN ART has become an illuminating

experience. London, York

and Aberdeen all host major festivals

of light as the nights draw in over

autumn and winter. Cheshire offers

a refreshing alternative to these

urban backdrops in Magic Woodland,

an intimate event that uses natural

woodland as a “living canvas” for

light installations.

“We wanted to use light to show

the fantastic beauty of the trees at

Blakemere Woods,” says founder

Steve Birchall. “The woodland being

a real, changing entity adds so much

to the experience.”

By day, the 15-acre wood, in a

former sand quarry, is a tranquil

spot. It’s easy to forget that the main

road is a short distance away. The

initial bright idea for Magical

Woodland came during a bush-camp

As a visual artist

in the northwest, I’ve

explored threatened

wetland habitats. My

installation Haecceity,

at Warrington Museum

and Art Gallery, offers

the audience an

alternative perspective

of mossland sites.


‘There’s a sense

of wonder’

night, when the organisers were

struck by the dramatic effect of

torchlight playing on the trees.

The first Magic Woodland

event took place in 2016, and this

year Birchall plans to take its design

to new levels, with interactive

installations and digital art set to

original music. One of the local

artists transforming the setting is

Andy Benfield, creative director of

the Travelling Light Circus collective.

“It’s a fairytale setting,” he says.

“There’s a sense of wonder, wrapped

up with nature. We want to bring

magic back to people of all ages.”

What the artists say...

My SpareParts

Festival aims to

celebrate the

incredibly rich

transport heritage

of Cheshire. The

reception you

get here is inspiring;

a real can-do attitude

and a lot of humour.


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6 Slant 2018 For more details on all the listed events, go to

Slant 2018 7



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